A storm headed this way is expected to develop into a nor’easter that could bring 12 to 18 inches of snow and whiteout conditions driven by wind gusts reaching 50 mph.

The National Weather Service issued the blizzard watch for southern and central Maine beginning tonight and extending into Monday afternoon

The storm also will hit southern Franklin, Oxford and Somerset counties, which could see between 6 and 12 inches of snow.

Steve Capriola, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the snow will begin to fall between 5 and 7 tonight over southern New Hampshire and southern Maine and spread north into the mountains by tonight.

Forecasters predict the storm will produce strong northeast winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts reaching 50 mph on the coast.

Capriola said the high winds could lead to whiteout conditions with near-zero visibility, along with splash-over and beach erosion.

“It’s not an end of the world storm system, but it’s a major winter storm that is impacting the entire East Coast,” Capriola said Saturday night. “There will be an impact.”

Portland officials say the city will be ready.

Michael Bobinsky, director of public services, said the city will be monitoring the forecast and street conditions throughout the day. He said workers will likely pretreat roads on some hills and at key intersections.

Southern Maine was caught off-guard last week with its first snowstorm of the season arriving Monday just as the evening commute began. The storm sent hundreds of vehicles sliding off roads across the region. Streets and highways were so slick that many commuters spent the start of their night stuck in traffic.

City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said additional crews will be on hand to assist with clearing and sanding. She urged drivers to exercise caution.

“Our primary concern is public safety,” Clegg said Saturday night. “We will be doing everything we can to keep the roads safe for traveling.”

A salt-and-sand mix is available at Deering Oaks for homeowners to use to clear their steps and sidewalks. Property owners must clean the city’s sidewalks within 24 hours after the storm concludes.

Bobinsky said a city-wide parking ban may take effect Monday night through Tuesday morning. For more information, call 879-0300. To track the storm, go to the National Weather Service’s website, www.erh.noaa.gov/gyx

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]